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IHS Press

Looking Forward, Giving Back: The Jewish Merchants of Downtown Indianapolis

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They came to America from eastern and central Europe before the Civil War. Many of them started out as peddlers, selling pots and pans in the Jewish neighborhoods of Indianapolis. By 1900 these enterprising peddlers had opened storefronts along Washington Street, and their businesses grew with the city. At the same time, the city’s Jewish merchants—Efroymson, Wolf, Strauss, Block, Blickman, Goodman, and others—never forgot their gratitude to the people of the city that made them successful. The stores they owned have faded into history, but their founders’ generosity lives on in the twenty-first century.

Kenneth L. Turchi traces the 150-year history of the Jewish merchants of downtown Indianapolis, while offering a glimpse of a more genteel time when shopping downtown was a special experience. From the bargainpriced selections at the Star Store to the gleaming marble arcade at Block’s and the courteous salespeople at Wasson’s, downtown offered something for everyone—and everyone shopped there. Turchi also recounts the enduring philanthropy of many of Indianapolis’s retailing families in keeping with the traditions and values of their faith. 

Hardcover. 188 pages. 2022, Indiana Historical Society Press. By Kenneth L. Turchi.